Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lessons Learned at Rinkside A Fan Recounts the Controlled Frenzy of a Pro-Hockey Playoff Game - and Offers Pointers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lessons Learned at Rinkside A Fan Recounts the Controlled Frenzy of a Pro-Hockey Playoff Game - and Offers Pointers

Article excerpt

THERE'S nothing leisurely about a National Hockey League playoff game.

Imagine watching a crucial last out in the World Series: All the tension and excitement of an entire game is played out in a final moment. Now multiply the intensity of that moment by 60 and you have the controlled frenzy of professional ice hockey.

Starting with the puck dropping, a referee fleeing for his life, and a flurry of slapping sticks, a game often ends with a pile of elated players at one end and the opposing goalie sunk to his knees at the other, dejected at having let the winning goal slip by. It's nonstop action of 80-plus-miles-per-hour slap shots thwacking into the goalies' pads and players slamming into the boards.

You have to wonder why they bother having an arena announcer, as he is inaudible. Notably missing is the thrilling "Shoots ... Scores!" that resounds from radios and TV sets, but also absent are commercials that break up the action.

Unlike baseball, where the crowd usually leaps to its feet only for "the wave" and foul balls, hockey fans spend half the game standing, and they break out in a roar each time the puck comes to their end. Any shot can mean the game, and this night the final shot is a New Jersey sudden-death overtime goal. Disappointed, I made my way home with some important lessons:

* Don't think about how you got up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to wait in line to get tickets. If your team lost, just think of how much fun your $44 balcony seat brought you. (This does not apply if your team won: Then the three hours you spent in line was the best investment you've made in months.)

* Do know which end of the rink the home-team goalie will spend the most time - and get tickets for the other end. It will cut down on your nail-biting and fist-clenching, as you'll only have to watch your team defend its net up close for a third of the game. …

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